Genetic Contamination

The introduction of genetically engineered (GE) organisms into the complex ecosystems of our environment is a dangerous global experiment with nature and evolution.

Greenpeace Thai activists seal off the GE papaya at the Khon Kaen agricultural research station of the Department of Agriculture.

Genetic scientists are altering life itself. The products of genetic engineering are living organisms that could never have evolved naturally and do not have a natural habitat.

These human-made organisms can reproduce and interbreed with natural organisms, thereby spreading to new environments and future generations in an unpredictable and uncontrollable way. Because we know so little about how these novel organisms will act in the environment, and because these living organisms can multiply and spread, the potentially harmful effects of GE organisms may only be discovered when it is too late.

For these reasons, GE organisms (or GMOs - genetically modified organisms) must not be released into the environment. They pose unacceptable risks to ecosystems, and threaten biodiversity, wildlife and sustainable forms of agriculture.

GE organisms are a threat to crop diversity

Crop genetic diversity is critical to the continuing development of varieties resistant to new pests, diseases, and changing climatic and environmental conditions. In this way, diversity is essential for global food security. The lack of genetic diversity, in fact, can be linked to many of the major crop epidemics in human history.

As recently as 1970 the maize crop in the southern US was attacked by a disease called Southern corn leaf blight. Because of genetic uniformity among the maize varieties grown across the US, the loss to this disease was great - in total 15 percent of its harvest - at the time worth around US $1 billion.

According to botanist Jack Harlan, genetic diversity is all that "stands between us and catastrophic starvation on a scale we can not imagine".

GE companies threaten farmers' livelihoods

If threatening biodiversity wasn't enough, the biotech giants make farmers pay for the privilege of using these human-made organisms. Farmers in North America and Latin America, where most of the world's GE agriculture is, must sign a contract that specifies that if they save the seeds to plant again the following year or use any herbicide other than the corporation's own, they are likely to be prosecuted.

However, as awareness increases and consumers and farmers mobiliseacross the planet, the threat of GE crops and industrial agriculture can be stopped.

Hope for rejection in the world

Thanks to years of pressure from environmental groups, the consumers, our cyberactivists and Greenpeace, in 2004 we celebrated a victory for the environment following the announcement by Monsanto that it would suspend further development or open field trials of its genetically engineered Roundup Ready wheat. Monsanto stated that it was deferring all further efforts to introduce the crop and that it was discontinuing breeding and field-level research of the wheat. This follows a similar announcement in 2003 when the company announced its withdrawal from the development of pharmaceutical crops.

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